Finland and Sweden on Wednesday announced their decision to join the North Atlantic Alliance. The ambassadors have already submitted applications to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. However, Turkey has promised to block the initiative. Some states of Eastern Europe did not support the Scandinavians either. What demands are put forward by the opponents and whether they can stop the negotiations, RIA Novosti investigated.
Helsinki and Stockholm expressed their intentions a week before the official submission of documents. Recep Tayyip Erdogan im-mediately objected. He wo-rries that numerous representatives of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have settled in the Scandinavian countries. Turkey, the EU and the US consider it a terrorist group. At first, on M-ay 13, Erdogan simply hinted that he could veto the decision. “We do not have a positive opinion on this ma-tter. The Scandinavian cou-ntries are a guest house for terrorist organizations,” he said. The fact is that admission to NATO requires the approval of all thirty members of the North Atlantic bloc. Thus, any member of the alliance can block the entry. The very next day, Turkey, it would seem, played back. Senior presidential adviser on foreign policy Ibrahim Kalin said that the country “did not close the door” and called on potential members of the alliance to negotiate. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with Swedish and Finnish colleagues in Berlin.
It seems that everything went to the warming of relations. Sweden was going to send messengers to Ankara to establish a dialogue. But Erdogan unexpectedly backed down: “We cannot say yes to those who impose sanctions against Turkey. NATO is a security organization. Delegations from Finland and Sweden should not bother to travel.”
According to the head of state, the Scandinavians re-fused to extradite those suspected of involvement in t-he PKK. Moreover, there a-re supporters of this party in the Swedish parliament. As the Turkish media specified, the applicants for joining the alliance did not agree to extradite more than thirty members of the PKK and the Hizmet movement (FE-TO) to Ankara. The head of Hizmet is the writer and preacher Fethullah Gülen, who was declared in Turkey to be the organizer of an unsuccessful coup in 2016. Erdogan called him a personal enemy. “Sweden is an incubator of terrorist organizations,” the Turkish president stressed. However, it seems that Ankara does not put up final barriers and is bargaining. As three high-ranking Turkish officials told Bloomberg on condition of anonymity, she is ready to give in in response to the reciprocal steps of the alliance. In addition to the issue of the PKK, this is the lifting of the embargo on the export of weapons to Turkey, as well as the lifting of sanctions for the purchase of the Triumph air defense system.
According to the Turkish newspaper Sabah, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the republic is going to hand over a manifesto of ten conditions to Finland and Sweden in the near future. All of them relate to the PKK, but among them there are no requirements for the extradition of residents of Ankara countries. However, this list has not yet been officially released.
In response to the words of the head of Turkey, Kurdish migrants hung a huge PKK flag on one of the streets of Stockholm and lit smoke bombs. There are many representatives of this people in Sweden – about a hundred thousand (in Finl-and – an order of magnitude less). And there is indeed o-ne deputy in the parliament who supports the PKK, A-mina Kakabawe, a native of Iran. In her youth, she was a member of the Komala gr-oup, which is recognized as a terrorist group in the Isla-mic Republic. Now Kakab-ava is not officially a member of the Kurdish parties. But he wants the PKK and its allies to be removed fr-om the list of terrorist org-anizations in Sweden. The Social Democrats posted on their website a document with such an appeal. It also mentions the need to recognize the independence of K-urdistan. A senior Swedish official told the Financial Times that there are many other “deputies with a K-urdish background” in the country. Also located in Stockholm are the headqu-arters of the Stockholm Ce-nter for Freedom (SCF) a-nd the Northern Monito-ring Research Network (NRMN), which have gathered Turkish dissidents around them. But among the Swedish politicians the-re are also Erdogan’s supporters. In September, the Islamist Nuance Party, w-hose leader Mikayil Yuksel is of Turkish origin, will run for parliamentary elections. He is associated with the “Grey Wolves” (“Bozkurt”), a far-right organization that organized hundreds of murders in Turkey in the 1970s. After the 2016 rebellion, the “wolves” ceased to be in disgrace – many Turkish politicians do not hide their pan-Turkist views. In addition, Yuksel has repeatedly confronted representatives of the PKK in Sweden. O-bservers suggest that thr-ough “Nuance” Ankara w-ants to lobby its interests in Europe, including in the former Yugoslavia. Almost 100,000 immigrants from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Albania live in Sweden. Yuksel’s party demands the inclusion of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Turkey itself, into the EU. The Balkan issue was also raised by other opponents of the entry of the Scandinavian countries into NATO. Croatian Presi-dent Zoran Milanovic threa-tened to veto if the discussion took place during his p-resence at the alliance’s J-une summit. The stumbling block is the election laws in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, according to Milanovic, do not give Croats enough rights in the country. He considers “the Americans, the British and the Germans” to be guilty.
Milanovic also condemned the build-up of confrontation with Russia. The president called the issue of Finland joining the alliance “dangerous quackery” and drew attention to the fact that the country is located 50 kilometers from St. Petersburg (in fact, 300). “Let them join NATO, let them poke an angry bear in the eye with a pen,” he said.
These words provoked a scandal in Croatia. Prime Minister Andrei Plenkovich said that the president is a manipulator, a vandal and a person with pro-Russian vi-ews. At the end of April, the government cut off contact with Milanovic. Croatia is a parliamentary republic, so the president has only indirect influence on foreign policy. But Zoran Milan-ovic is really capable of bl-ocking the decision to admit new members to NATO if he is present at the alliance’s council on this issue. According to the regulations, the council can meet at the level of both ambassadors and heads of state.
Other countries of Southern and Eastern Europe are also dissatisfied with NATO’s involvement in the Ukrainian conflict. A rally was held in Greece against the supply of weapons to Kyiv, as well as the presence of US and NATO military bases in the country. Employees of the railway company TrainOSE boycotted the transport of heavy weapons to Greek ports. A similar rally was held in Bulgaria. At it, the leader of the conservative Vozrozhdeniye party, Kostadin Kostadinov, called for the resignation of the government.
However, this is only the mood of a part of the citizens. At the highest level, no one, except for Erdogan and Milanovic, spoke out against the admission of the Scandinavian states to NATO. Finnish President Sauli Niiniste told Yle TV channel that he doubted Turkey’s desire to block the country’s entry into the organization. “The Alliance is counting on quick steps to formalize the membership of Finland and Sweden,” NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said at the ceremony of receiving ambassadors. Russian President Putin at the CSTO summit noted that the admission of the two countries to NATO does not pose a threat to Moscow. But, according to the head of state, Russia will respond to the expansion of the military infrastructure of the alliance.
Political scientists do not exclude that this position is taken into account in Ankara: they realize the importance of safe trade in the Black Sea and Trans-caucasia, where Russia is one of the leading players. “This suggests that Erdog-an, to some extent, does not want to aggravate relations with Moscow,” said Victor Nadein-Raevsky, a senior researcher at IMEMO RAS. However, he emphasizes: Turkey always pursues multiple goals in the international arena. Evgeny Minchenko, president of the Minchenko Consulting communications holding, shares the same opinion. He compares the diplomatic situation between Ankara and the applicants to a Turkish bazaar. “When the seller has many negotiating positions, it is easier for him to negotiate something. The price and choice of goods may change, but if both parties want to make a deal, they will agree,” the political scientist argues.
According to the expert, Erdogan, who faces elections next year, is also thinking about his rating. In the spring, he managed to win back a little after a record December drop to 39 percent – according to a study by MetroPol, 43 percent of respondents would now support him. Growth is small, and now more than ever, the head of Turkey needs serious success in the foreign policy arena.